Immovable deadline, say hello to indominable spirit and unrelenting faith. 

Kathy Lueckert, president of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), A Corporation, was Fred Tangeman’s guest Thursday on GA Live. Watch their 25-minute conversation here. 

Among Tangeman’s questions for Lueckert was how the renovation of the Presbyterian Center came about in time for the in-person start of the 225th General Assembly on June 18. 

“We are giving thanks to God it all came together at the right time,” Lueckert said. “We had an immovable deadline. There wasn’t any wiggle room about when this needed to be functional, and the team worked hard to do that.” 

Early on, part of the challenge was where to place the conference center, which is at the former location of the Presbyterian Center cafeteria. 

“This building has a lot of columns and not a lot of open space,” Lueckert said. “Once we identified the space on the first floor in the old cafeteria, that’s where we focused effort to form three conference rooms, because there were no structural columns.” 

The renovation fell into two large categories, she said: the renovation of the space itself and all the technology required to hold a hybrid assembly. 

“We knew there would be supply chain issues. We got the contractor on board and ordered equipment well before Christmas,” Lueckert said. Still, “we were living in suspense,” including “permit adventures” with the local government and issues with otherwise fairly mundane features like doorframes. Other challenges were substantially more than mundane, including frequent Covid cases affecting the project’s subcontractors. 

Mid-Kentucky Presbytery did the team a great service, Lueckert said, by agreeing to hold its May presbytery meeting in the new conference center as a way to ensure the technology and facilities would work as planned. “It was a huge help to us,” Lueckert told Tangeman. “We learned how the space worked and how the technology did and didn’t work.” 

As work progressed to bring the conference center to the facility that it is today, “we would come up with roadblocks,” Lueckert said. “At each step along the way, God’s providence took us through.” 

Asked about additional cases of Covid among commissioners and PC(USA) national staff, Lueckert said she has to constantly remind herself “don’t get cocky” about Covid mitigation efforts. 

“The virus hasn’t left us. It’s still here,” she said. She reminded viewers that commissioners had to show proof of vaccination and boosters before being admitted to their committee rooms, and that reminders about wearing masks and maintaining social distancing are regularly issued. Meeting spaces are cleaned and sanitized nightly, and committees enjoy breaks and meals at staggered hours to discourage large groups from gathering. 

“Being vigilant requires folks to be willing to be vigilant,” Lueckert said. “We hope we can keep everyone as safe and as healthy as possible.” 

Lueckert said it’s “likely” there will be additional Covid cases through the time that committee meetings end on July 2. 

She called it “a marvelous teaching for us white folks” to learn commissioners can listen to committee meetings being translated “and still function.” She called the services provided by Global Language Resources “integral and critical to this assembly. We are taking a big step made possible by technology and a willingness to do things differently than we have before. We are learning as we go along, and this will be foundational for increased language access” at future assemblies. 

The 225th General Assembly is the 14th assembly Lueckert has served. During six assemblies Lueckert worked as a tracker, people who in previous assemblies helped committees transition their committee work into plenary-ready presentations. She recalled a previous assembly where 130 items of business had to be evaluated by hand to make sure they qualified for the plenary session’s consent agenda. “With PC-Biz, that’s now handled automatically,” Lueckert said. “The whole way of tracking assembly business has changed and improved greatly.” 

Tangeman asked Lueckert to share any moments of grace she experienced. Her quick reply was it’s the “attitude and spirit” she’s seen among commissioners “and their willingness to say, ‘We’ll go with this and we will figure it out.’” 

In fact, the assembly is blessed with “a great team across the board,” Lueckert said. “That teamwork is an example of what God intends us to be like with each other.” 

Watch GA Live every morning at 10 a.m. Eastern Time on the Spirit of GA Facebook page.